In the middle of the 19th Century, there were railroad connections from Chester County into Philadelphia, and soon these connections became overburdened, and locals  began to seek another route for their products and produce.  One report suggested a connection with Wilmington, Delaware: “A glance at the maps of New Castle and Chester Counties will show that Wilmington is the natural outlet for the produce of a large district of rich and populous country, whose trade she has heretofore enjoyed to a large extent.”

Thus, starting as early as the 1850’s, there were discussions on the possibility of another railroad, then referred to as the Brandywine Railroad, to serve primarily as a means to transport coal from Reading to Wilmington.  A newspaper of the time declared that local inhabitants were to “have as many outlets for their surplus products and the black diamond as possible, well knowing that every ton of coal sent out of Pennsylvania leaves its value behind in gold and silver, or its equivalent.”

In the 1860’s, there were at least two routes proposed for this railroad connector.  One Corps of Engineers survey went from Wilmington to Coatesville by way of Kennett Square.  The other – and the one eventually adopted – followed the Brandywine to the Fork, and then along the West Branch to Coatesville.

As 1870 dawned, the railroad was a reality, hailed as “a new artery of trade through the very heart of our country….through which must flow an immense local and distant traffic in all the productions of agriculture, the mine and manufactory.”

For residents of Pocopson Township, the railroad meant more than a string of cars carrying coal from southeastern Pennsylvania to Wilmington.  Later this history will treat the growth of the dairy business, as local producers of milk and butter sought an outlet for their products.  Pocopson Township, with roughly 5 miles of track, had 4 railroad stations: Pocopson Station, near Painter’s Bridge; Sagerville station, near Lenape; Seed’s Bridge Station (later Wawaset); and Marshall’s Station (later Northbrook).  These stations were particularly important for shipment of milk and butter, and secondarily for passengers.

As the railroad got underway, the schedule for the trip between Wilmington and the Pocopson stations was announced.  It appears to be very much a local train, as stations named were Wilmington, Newport Road, Lancaster Road, Buck, DuPonts, Wilson’s Run, Adam’s, Swayne’s, Smith’s Bridge, Brookfield, Chadds Ford, Brinton’s, Pocopson, Sager’s Seed’s, and Marshall’s.  Three trains were scheduled daily each way.  The scheduled time between Wilmington and Pocopson Station was 1 hour, 14 minutes.

  Originally called the Wilmington and Reading Railroad, it was reorganized into the Wilmington and Northern Railroad in January, 1877.

The announced pay of railroad workers gives some insight into wages of the times.  The starting pay for enginemen was $2.60 a day; for firemen, $1.60; for conductors, $2.00; for brakemen, $1.75.  Each of these could look forward to raises of $.10 to $.30 a day after a few months on the job.  (a “day” consisted of 12 hours of work.)

While the railroad seemed to be satisfying residents along its right of way, others began to agitate for further extensions of service.  West Chester residents wanted a branch railroad to be constructed linking the county seat with Lenape (Sager’s).  William M. Haynes, Esq., identified as the Chester County counsel for the railroad, was quoted in 1887 as saying that exploratory meetings on that issue had been held with Col. Henry DuPont, President of the Wilmington & Northern Railroad.  But that rail link never materialized.

Additional information on local railroads can be found at: http://www.unionvilletimes.com/?p=10030